Aquatic Plant Research > Scientific Data on Aquatic Plant Communities > Rapid Assessment Method
Aquatic Plant Research
Rapid Assessment Method
DNR Science Services researchers developed a rapid assessment protocol to broadly characterize the aquatic plants in a given lake. This method is quick to implement, but does not collect the species-specific information necessary to make sound management decisions. However, the rapid assessments may be of use in ecological condition assessments and some monitoring purposes and could provide a cost-effective solution to big-picture ecological questions.
Every four years the EPA coordinates a survey of the nation’s lakes. The 2008 survey showed that shoreline plants were one of the areas of lakes most affected by development. DNR Science Services designed a plant sampling method for the EPA survey that allows cross-lake comparisons yet does not require detailed knowledge about aquatic plant taxonomy. The method groups plants into guilds by growth form. A lake can be surveyed quickly with the method, but speed is related to the intensity of sampling. Fewer transects per survey yielded reduced data quality. DNR Science Services then trained EPA staff on the method, and it was included in the 2012 National Lakes Assessment survey.
A rapid assessment of a lake's plant community can be conducted in under two hours, and despite the decrease in detail of the data collected, the approach does shed light on the overall condition of the aquatic plant community. Rapid assessments have the potential to provide more economical resource management when used to answer appropriate questions. The rapid plant assessment protocol was developed by DNR Science Services for the EPA's 2012 National Lakes Survey and was performed monitoring teams across the nation. Science services researchers continue to test the rapid assessment method in Wisconsin to determine its sensitivity to changes in the plant community and the feasibility of using it to check the condition of lakes in Wisconsin.
DNR Science Services staff helped train nationwide natural resources staff how to perform rapid aquatic plant assessments at a training meeting in 2011.